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End of an era as Authonomy bites the dust

24 August 2015

It's sad to see the end of Authonomy, which HarperCollins UK has decided to close at the end of September. The first of the author submission sites, it worked through peer review in that submissions were ranked by users and the best-ranked were considered for publication by HarperCollins.

I remember talking to the staff member at HarperCollins who had been given the job of setting it up. I thought it sounded a great idea from the point of view of authors, offering a real opportunity to get published for those whose work was really good.

As Scott Pack, formerly publisher of HarperCollins' The Friday Project, has said, Authonomy was a "great concept that, when it worked at its best, was a fantastic way to source new talent and HarperCollins published many books that proved that point.

"The big problem, though, was that users learned how to 'game' the site so that, after a year or two, the manuscripts rising to the top, and therefore being passed on to editors, were rarely the best and were often pretty poor. It is hard to keep editors engaged when that happens."

Speaking to the Bookseller, Miranda Dickinson, one of the authors who got published through the site said:

"I think the community side to Authonomy was its strength and this side had much more to offer for the future. "Writers need support at all stages of their writing journeys and especially when they are in the process of submitting to agents and publishers. Peer-based communities are a vital resource in a pursuit that is often lonely. An important achievement I think Authonomy has made is to change major publishers' attitudes to writer submissions."

It's certainly true that open submissions have become more fashionable amongst publishers. Often specific in the genre of book they're looking for, they offer a window of opportunity, but the publishers still have to work their way through a very large number of submissions to find the good ones which they want to publish. From the publishers' point of view, it's not so different from the old submission piles after all, but for writers it is a real opportunity.

As far as writer communities are concerned, there are now plenty of these, so you can find one that suits you. Authonomy was of its time and a great deal has changed on the Internet and for writers in the years since it was set up.